My Turn

I Love This Quadra!

Eric McCann - 2002.02.11

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

Yet another "oh, cool" moment happened today.

I run a hobby website - nothing fancy, mostly scale models, decal reviews, tips and techniques. This website is one of the reasons I still have my HP Pavilion 4453 running Windows.

First, the program I like to use, LiquidFX, is only available for Window. Not a big deal, as I don't use WYSIWYG editors; I prefer text. BBEdit on the Mac is growing on me, and on occasion I'll boot into BeOS on the PC and use CoolCat.

The camera's the other reason I use Windows. If it were an Apple product, it might qualify as a Road Apple, but just barely. I use a Polaroid PDC 640. It's got decent resolution and is easy to use. It's got problems dealing with the dark - a beautifully lit up church in the old neighborhood, maybe two blocks away, never got photographed.

The problem with it is that it uses the PC's serial port.

If I'd bought a camera just six months later, it'd be using USB. Ah well. Either way, in the Windows world, using this camera requires loading special software - a TWAIN driver, specifically, and I can't even use it in NT - it's only available for Windows 95 and 98.

Fortunately, it's recognized natively in BeOS, and Be's Camera app is perfectly happy with it. Slow, but happy.

Either way, though, it's been hampering my migration to Mac. I can get a USB card reader (it uses the wafer-thin Smart Media cards) and a USB card for my Power Mac - when the money comes in - but I wanted to do this on the cheap. (Note that the card plus reader would probably total $50-60 - not bad, but still.)

Well, not too long ago (thanks to the LEM Swap list) I found myself with a pile of Macs - everything from an SE to some 7100/80s. In this pile I found a Quadra 840AV with those wonderful RCA and S-video in and out jacks.

Today I found my camera's out-to-TV RCA cable. It works beautifully with the 840AV.

The setup is this - I hook the camera up to its external power brick (to save the batteries, rechargeable or not). I then have two options, the camera-to-serial connection to work with the PC, or a camera-to-RCA-jack connection, normally to work with a TV or VCR.

Using the second jack, I hook it up to the Quadra 840AV and fire up the Apple Video Player. All I need to do then is run it like a slideshow, using the camera. I can save the "slideshow" as a movie or freeze and capture individual frames (pictures) with the video controls.

The only thing I need to find out now is if there are any other (preferably shareware or freeware) programs that can take this input directly, and allow me to save it in JPEG or GIF format. I want to be able to do this in as few steps as possible. If anyone has any suggestions, please email me.

No, it's not "drag-and-drop" easy, but it's a way of using the camera (and protecting my investment in it) that Polaroid never thought of.

I love this Quadra!

UPDATE: Several readers have suggested GraphicConverter for cropping and editing screen shots (among other things) and Cameraid as a program that will work with the Agfa camera.

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